J.J. Strang Writer's Society
Spring is in the process of springing as I compose this 4th issue of our newsletter. Please welcome our four new members:
April Mattson Angelmattson2cs.com lives in Randolph, MA. April writes: “Primarily my novel uses the first settlers in Boyne City around 1856, as a backdrop and comparison with modern characters. It is a multigenerational story. The segment that I am writing about Strang concerns mostly a dream that Harriet Miller (among the first settlers) has about the history of the abandoned cabin that her and her husband John Miller find in Boyne City.
The cabin was built by Reuben T. Nichols, a Strangite Mormon, who fled when he found out that Strang had been shot and the Strangites had been chased off Beaver Island. I am interested to find out more about Nichols if anyone knows anything about him. I have only a brief excerpt from a book mostly about Boyne City called Settlers to Sidewalks, by Robert Morgridge. It is not clear to me for sure whether or not Nichols was living on Beaver Island when Strang was shot, and if so, how did he escape when it appears that few others did. Also, I do not know what ‘pistol whipped,’ as opposed to ‘shot’ means. Any ideas?
“Please let me know if anyone can direct me to more information about Reuben T. Nichols or if anyone knows if info. is available about him in Assassination of a Mich. King.”
The following from Jerry Gordon: gorden.jerrymcleodusa.net.
“I am a great-grandson of Warren Wesley Post an Apostle with James Jesse Strang's faction of the Mormon Church at Beaver Island. (Small edit from Newsletter #3 Anne-Marie Ooman's article. Anne's comments relative to ‘Jerry Pos’" should have read Jerry Gorden. Otherwise I read her article with interest!) We had a great time last summer at Beaver Island sharing our divergent perspectives.
“I became interested in Beaver Island in the mid-1980s and have returned frequently to walk where Great Grandpa Post had walked and became enamored with Beaver Island- the quiet culture and lonely beaches and the people I have met there. I have entered into a quest to find and write about Warren Post's Life Journey. I have access to some 60 letters written during the period 1845-1875 and a record of the Saints stored at the Iowa State Historical Society.
“Warren was an early convert to the Mormon Church, ordained an Elder and traveled with Brigham Young halfway across Iowa. Returned to get his family in Penn, was involved in the last battle at Nauvoo, IL; was diverted to Burlington, WI and joined the Strang faction, ordained a High Priest. He joined the group at Beaver Island in 1850, witnessed the coronation, took the oath to Strang, and was ordained as one of Strang's Apostles. He was a traveling missionary for Strang, witnessed the plates of the BOOK OF THE LAW, married on Beaver Island to Deborah Brown, Tripp. He entered into polygamy in accordance with the Book of the Law and lived on Beaver Island until the expulsion in 1856. When the expulsion occurred in that hot July my Great Grandmother Deborah was 8 months pregnant with my Grandfather - Israel. Lots more about this story for those interested.
“I am a retired Army Officer - currently direct a Military Museum at Camp Dodge, Iowa. I am a convert to the RLDS Church (Now the Community of Christ) where both my wife and I serve as High Priests. I respect the Strang movement although much of the story is star-crossed.
Bill Cashman introduces Paul Connors Pconnorslsb.state.mi.us to us as “Beaver Island’s foremost historian.” I hope Paul will write to introduce himself in our next newsletter.
Bill also has introduced Lissa (Elizabeth) Edwards lissatraversemagazine.com Perhaps we’ll hear about Lissa also in our next issue.
Welcome to the above.
I wish to offer my apology to John Hajicek JohnHajicek.com for using his picture of J.J. Strang without first obtaining his permission.
Carolyn Lewis has recently moved from New York to the Traverse City area. Her new address is: sunwritepentel.net
Carolyn reports: “I am not working on Strang material at the moment, but I am currently at work on a collection of historical narrative poetry. It is placed on Old Mission Peninsula outside of Traverse City and I have entitled it the Ogdensburg Cemetery Collection.
“I use the real ethnic last names of the Dutch people who lived here in the late 19th, very early 20th century. It's narrated, however, by the invented voice of a woman whom I have created as one of the first ministers of the Ogdensburg Church, a fiction necessary to have a narrator who justifiably could have known people's stories. She tells the tales of this agricultural community through an array of narrative poetry, of the wild characters and scrapes and loves of this early farming community, a great bit of it based in fact, and where the ends and certain details of the stories are not known, I have invented some. I have, of course, mixed up the names so no one is recognizable as a real person, as many of the old families' names are still here, while still keeping the ethnic flavor by the use of certain last names. The sense and details of the land, the crops, the houses and barns, is also very prevalent throughout. I only wish I could hear the language as it transitioned from the Dutch to the English, and would be grateful for anyone knowing of any existing early audiotapes or recordings of people speaking in the area.”
The following was submitted by our very own Bill Cashman wcashmanbeaverisland.net
being the true story of a turning point
in Beaver Island's early years
On the second Thursday of September in 1855, another party was being held in Dr. McCullough's large home near the center of Paradise Bay's fine harbor. About thirty Saints were in attendance, including their prophet, James Jesse Strang. He stood with three advisers near the piano, where a fourteen-year-old girl had raced through some hymns and then shyly glanced up for his approval. “You have a real talent,” he told her warmly, nodding. Her mother gathered her up and whisked her home to prepare for school; her father was "in consultation" with Dr. McCullough in his study, and would stagger along later. She cast a final glance over her shoulder at the Prophet. He did not meet her gaze, but drew himself up to let her take him all in. She would soon be of age
Three of Strang's wives were present. Mary, the first, was living elsewhere, and Betsy, whom he had saved from spinsterism, did not get out much anymore. Elvira was in a side room negotiating a contract to cart apples from Fox Lake to the dock. She worked twelve hours a day seeing to the Kingdom's business without tiring, and Amos Everly was about to agree that as long as she provided hay and water for his team, he would accept as payment certain special extra guarantees for his family's salvation. The girl wives, Sarah and Phoebe, were huddled with two unmarried friends, explaining the wonderment of conjugal union. The friends affected to be scandalized, yet were anxious to learn more.
From time to time someone would break away from one of the other groups to approach the Prophet, to make a business proposition or share fresh gossip. Ebenezer Debs, whose great grandson would run for President, had a spiritual question: "Will there be sex in heaven?" He was past seventy, so it was of more than theoretical interest. At first Strang's advisers regarded this as effrontery. One of them began an admonition: "Sir, I hardly think that is...," but Strang raised his hand to halt the rebuke in mid-phrase. "That's like asking if a woman preparing a fine feast in her kitchen might suddenly plunge a hand into a pot of boiling water," Strang replied. Those nearby drew silent to catch his address. "In heaven, everything holy will be permitted. But considering the happiness and joy we shall feel as a rapture of our souls from being there, who would ever seek the diminished pleasure of physical enjoinery?"
Four newcomers entered through the front door, a tall, good looking man with an attractive woman on his arm, and two more well-dressed gentlemen in their wake. They were all in their thirties, and demonstrated an ease and contentment that made them right at home. One of Strang's advisers leaned over to elucidate him: “That's Mr. Aps and his wife; they're buying the Baker farm. I believe those are his brothers who've come along.”
They scanned the various circles until locating the Prophet. Mrs. Aps took charge of the introductions: "Greetings, Brother Strang. My name is LaVinia Anderson-Pomer-Smith. This is my husband Ralph"--and here he offered his hand--"and Benjamin, and John," she concluded, the other men shaking hands with Strang as well. "We heard of your inspiration in Buffalo," she continued. "We wholeheartedly share your beliefs. We would like to move here and live in your spirit, if you will have us. We've drawn up a list of our assets. Benjamin"--Benjamin obediently drew a paper from inside his jacket and passed it to Strang--"and are willing to contribute fairly for this honor." Strang accepted the list, but passed it to the adviser on his right, saying he did not handle these matters personally. The adviser unfolded it and nodded approval at the number of goods it contained.
“What drew us in particular," Mrs. Aps continued. "Was your revelation of God's blessing on plural marriage.”There was an imp in the back of the mind of the adviser to Strang's left, which had become a nuisance for its impudent suggestions. Now it intruded another, of which he was not proud: 'perhaps she will bring new women, and there will be one for me.' Meanwhile the adviser to Strang's right was showing him some of the finer particulars in the list.
"We will be glad to have you amongst us," the Prophet told them.
"There's one little problem," the woman said. "Before we irrevocably commit, let me be sure I understand. God told you, I have heard, that plural marriages are to be encouraged, so long as the economic conditions are met and all parties are in agreement. Is that so?"
"That was His message," the Prophet replied, nodding.
"My parents did not believe God could have announced this," Mrs. Aps continued. "I wrote it down in a letter, to which I would appreciate receiving your concordance. John"--and here it was John's turn to produce a document from his vest, which he handed to the Prophet. "Right here," she added, pointing out the intended passage. "Would you read it aloud?"
Strang read it silently first, and then, approving, addressed the gathering now quietly facing him: "Verily God has decreed that if no hardship arises and all parties in Good Faith consent, a Plural Marriage of two or more Spouses, conducted in full Accordance with the Scripture and His Revelations thereof, shall Further His Kingdom on Earth and Help prepare for the Life to Come."
"Do you concur?" she asked.
The Prophet studied her for a moment and then replied: "Yes, I do." He appreciated a woman of such obvious capacity.
"Would you be so kind as to sign, so I may have a testament to defy doubters? Benjamin"--her husband extracted a pen, and unsealed a vial of ink.
Strang's advisers thought this was going too far, but Strang, steadfastly meeting Mrs. Aps' gaze, decided she had an allure which would make her an asset to his community. Taking the writing implement and using the piano for support, he scrawled his magisterial signature across her letter and passed it back. "I welcome you into our midst," he decried.
Beaming, she turned to address the entire gathering. "Now that we have the Prophet's agreement, we intend to make this our home. Let us introduce ourselves. My name is LaVinia Anderson-Pomer-Smith. Please, for convenience call me Mrs. Aps. And these are my husbands. Ralph Anderson, John Pomer, and Benjamin Smith."
For a moment a stunned silence engulfed the room; then a buzz started up in every corner.
"We are purchasing the Baker farm. Please let the women know I will receive them at their convenience to help them understand how to achieve the glory to which my husbands and I are privy." She nodded, and her men began to perform their preassigned tasks. Ralph went out to ready their wagon; John fetched her coat from the stand near the door; and Benjamin began passing out small cards with their names on the front and a copy of the pledge Strang had signed on the back. Their diligence indicated she had not yet decided whose turn it would be that evening when they retired.
The advisers sputtered with indignation, but Strang himself was deep in thought. Despite all his careful balancing and calculation, he suspected that something he had overlooked might be a problem just over the horizon. Perhaps he was right, for many scholars retrospectively analyzing the failure of this grand social experiment feel certain that this event marked the beginning of the end of his power.
(Editor's note: obviously, this is a work of fiction, Bill would appreciate any comments it may elicit.)
Vickie Speek vspeekcbcast.com has received what we all wish for, a positive response from a publisher. She writes: “I've heard back from the University of Illinois Press. They are very interested in my article about Strang's Five Wives, but want a book length manuscript of at least 200 pages to review before they will commit. I'm encouraged. But suddenly I am looking at just how many pages 200 really is! I'm afraid I'm never going to have a life again!”
William H. Olson, Editor